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The Failure of Zion's Camp


consiglieri

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I have long thought the failure of Zion's Camp to redeem Zion in 1834 to be one of the biggest problems for me personally in Church history. It always sounded like a military attempt to take back the confiscated Jackson County lands that started with much bluster and ceremony in Ohio, but fizzled by the time they marched to Missouri, and then disbanded without ever doing anything they had intended to do. (In fact, I would swear that is the way I have heard it taught for three decades in the Church; that is whenever anybody wanted to talk about Zion's Camp.)

And all the rationalization about the "real" purpose of Zion's Camp being to prepare a cadre from which to draw church leadership has always struck me as hopelessly post hoc.

Imagine my surprise when reading Rough Stone Rolling a couple of days ago in preparation for (drum roll, please) Gospel Doctrine class, and finding that Professor Bushman states unequivocally that it was never intended that Zion's Camp should fight . . and then he presents supporting documentation to that effect from before the march began.

According to Bushman, who is known for his even-handed approach to Mormon history, the purpose of Zion's Camp was never to engage in military battle to take back the lost Jackson County lands. (So far, this sounds like what Joseph Smith said afterward.)

Rather, continues Bushman, the Mormons had obtained an agreement from Missouri Governer Daniel Dunklin that he would help them get resituated on the Jackson County lands they had bought, but that he could not keep a militia there to guard them after the emergency had passed, as the law would not allow for that, and it was felt the Mormons would need a militia to guard and defend their presence in Missouri for some time to come.

In response to this, Zion's Camp was formed and marched to Missouri. Upon arriving in Clay County (just north of Jackson County), however, the Mormons found that Governer Dunklin reneged on his offer to aid the Mormons in getting back into Jackson County.

So Joseph Smith was there at the head of a military force which really never did intend to fight for the land, but only to defend the Mormons resituated on their land after Governor Dunklin had put them there.

This is a solution to the dilemma which appears rooted in historical reality, and which has resolved this problem in Church history for me.

I am surprised that I had to wait until I had been a member of the Church for over 30-years to encounter this explanation; and then to encounter it in Rough Stone Rolling.

Had everybody else here already heard this and am I just the last to know?

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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Consig, the primary lesson teaches this, which seems to be in accord with RSR.

http://library.lds.org/nxt/gateway.dll?f=templates$fn=default.htm

In the winter of 1833â??34 the Saints in Jackson County, Missouri, were persecuted and driven out of their homes by enemy mobs. The Saints had very little food and no protection from the winter weather. Governor Daniel Dunklin of Missouri promised to help the Saints get their land and homes back if they organized a group of men to protect themselves from the mobs, so the Church leaders in Missouri sent Parley P. Pratt and Lyman Wight to Kirtland to seek help and guidance from the Prophet Joseph Smith. The Prophet received a revelation (D&C 103) directing him to organize a group of men to march to Missouri and help the Saints there. This group, which would be called Zionâ??s Camp, was to take food, clothing, and money to the Missouri Saints and help them recover their homes and land.
When Zionâ??s Camp reached Missouri, Joseph Smith sent Parley P. Pratt and Orson Hyde to the state capital to meet with Governor Dunklin. When these two brethren returned, they reported that the governor had changed his mind and now refused to help the Saints regain their homes and property. The governor suggested that the Saints give up all their property in Missouri and find another place to live. Despite this discouraging news, Zionâ??s Camp continued on toward Jackson County.

The primary lesson still throws in the test church leadership rationale.

At the end of June 1834 Joseph Smith received a revelation (D&C 105) from the Lord ordering the men of Zionâ??s Camp not to fight against the Missouri mobs. Some of the men of Zionâ??s Camp returned to the mission fields where they had been serving, and some remained in Missouri, but most of them returned to their homes and families. Although Zionâ??s Camp did not help the Missouri Saints get their homes and lands back from the mob, it served an important purpose as a test of faith for the men involved. They had to learn to follow the Prophet Joseph Smith without complaining and to overcome the obstacles they faced. The men who passed this test and remained faithful became strong leaders in the Church: most of the first members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and First Quorum of the Seventy were chosen from this group.

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I am surprised that I had to wait until I had been a member of the Church for over 30-years to encounter this explanation; and then to encounter it in Rough Stone Rolling. Had everybody else here already heard this and am

I just the last to know?

Which is why it's never a good idea to get discouraged over perceived problems in the church. Actually, I believe Truman Madsen covered it, though I'm not sure where (check the On Sacred Ground series or his new Joseph Smith lectures). It had never really bothered me due to what came out of the Camp experience. By that, I don't mean the leadership "thing" (although it, too, is valid when viewed in historical context), but the fact that it all sort of fell apart. As a result, Joseph told them that the Lord's wrath would fall on the rebellious, and then it did in the form of a horrendous cholera epidemic. What could be more "Old Testament" than that? After telling them of the impending judgments that would come upon them, Joseph and Hyrum then tried to turn it aside through administering to the sick, and as a result, both were immediately struck with the illness themselves.

Here is Wilford Woodruff's account:

A short time before we landed in Missouri Joseph called the camp together. He there prophesied unto us, and told us what lay before us. He gave us the reason why chastisement was before us. He says: "You consider me a boy with the rest of you. You have not realized my position before the Lord. But there is a chastisement before this camp." He told us that this would come upon us because he had not been obeyed in his counsels. In one hour after we landed in Missouri and pitched our tents at Mr. Burkett's, one man began to fail here, another there, and in a few moments we had a dozen of our camp stretched upon blankets with the cholera. The Prophet of God, when he saw this, felt to sympathize with them, and he and Hyrum laid their hands upon Brother Carter, the first man that was taken sick, but as soon as they did it they were seized themselves, and they both had to leave the camp. He said afterwards: "I told you what was coming to pass, and when affliction came I stretched out my hand to stay it, and I came very near falling by it myself." That mission was very interesting to me. (President Wilford Woodruff, Conference Report, April 1898, Second Day-Morning Session)

I've always trusted Woodruff's accounts because of his painstaking recording of them. Another account, by the prophets' mother, is as follows, and is in the words of Joseph:

The disease instantly fastened itself upon us, and in a few minutes we were in awful distress. We made mute signals to each other and left the house for the purpose of going into some secluded place to join in prayer that God would deliver us from this awful influence. But before we could get a sufficient distance to be secure from interruption, we were scarcely able to stand upon our feet and we were greatly alarmed, fearing that we should die in this western wilderness so far from our families, without even the privilege of blessing our children or of giving them one word of parting counsel. Hyrum cried out, "Joseph, what shall we do? Must we be cut off from the face of the earth by this horrid curse?"

"Let us," [said Joseph], "get down upon our knees and pray to God to remove the cramp and other distress and restore us to health, that we may return to our families." We did so but without receiving any benefit, but still grew worse. ...

We soon came to the resolution of appealing again to God for mercy and not to rise from our knees until one or the other got a testimony that we should be healed. ... We prayed some time, first one and then the other, and soon perceived that the cramp began to loose its hold. And in a short time afterwards, Hyrum sprang to his feet and exclaimed, "Joseph, we shall return, for I have seen an open vision in which I saw Mother on her knees under an apple tree praying for us, and she is even now asking in tears for God to spare our lives that she may behold us again in the flesh. And the Spirit testifies to me that her prayers and ours shall be heard." And from that moment we were healed and went on our way rejoicing. (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith,, p.479-91)

Brigham Young substantiated this event, as related by his son, Seymour:

Hyrum Smith rose to his feet and began to shout "Hosanna to God and the Lamb forever, for," said he to his brother Joseph, "I have had a vision, I have seen our dear old mother kneeling in the orchard praying for her boys, and I have had a testimony from God that her prayers will be heard, and that we shall once more see her in life." Joseph, the Prophet, immediately arose from his knees and joined in praise and hallelujah to God, for he too felt renewed strength and power from the intercession of her faithful prayers, and exclaimed, "God bless our dear old mother; how often has she brought us from the depths of despair, sickness, pain and suffering through her devotion and prayers." (President Seymour B. Young., Conference Report, April 1915, Third Day-Morning Session, p.126.

There were also other accounts relating the same story, and they're fairly consistent. Based on them, I'm confident that there was a great purpose in the Camp of Zion, and I'm convinced that it was also a teaching experience. Those who remained faithful and did not complain before the Lord were some of the more experienced leaders when the time came to move out of Nauvoo in the dead of winter. It would have been a grave error to engage in battle in an attempt to regain their lands, nor was Zion's Camp ever formed as a military force, with muskets, horses and even training. Elder Franklin D. Richards explained in a 1971 Ensign article:

The purpose of the trek was to join the Saints in Missouri and buy lands in Jackson County and surrounding counties and retrieve those lands taken by the mobs who had dispossessed the Missouri Saints of considerable [amounts] of their property. Upon reaching Missouri, and after extensive negotiations with Governor Dunklin failed to produce results, it was felt advisable to disband Zion's Camp and await some future opportunity for the redemption of Zion. Most of those who had formed Zion's Camp returned to Kirtland, which was at that time the center of ecclesiastical activity.

The "journey of Zion's Camp" was regarded by many as an unprofitable and unsuccessful episode. A brother in Kirtland who did not go with the camp, meeting Brigham Young upon his return, said to him, "Well, what did you gain on this useless journey to Missouri with Joseph Smith?"

"All we went for," replied Brigham Young. "I would not exchange the experience I gained in that expedition for all the wealth of Geauga County," the county in which Kirtland was then located.

The journey covered more than one thousand miles and there were dissensions within and hostile demonstrations from without. There were hardships and disappointments, but these experiences had real value because from this group many became the leaders in the exodus of 12,000 people from Missouri to Nauvoo, and then later many became leaders in the great western exodus from Nauvoo to the Salt Lake Valley. (Elder Franklin D. Richards, "The Purpose of Life:To Be Proved," Ensign (CR), December 1971, p.50)

So don't be too anxious to dismiss experience as one of the critical reasons that it came about. Certainly the Lord knows all things from the beginning, and this isn't the first time (even in this dispensation) when the people had failed to live up to what the Lord desired of them.

ZionsCamp.jpg

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Is it the possible violence that you felt previously uncomfortable about or the lack of government oversight?

If the latter, there are several places you can find Dunklin referred on lds.org so I believe the fact that JS was attempting to work with the legal authorities has been referred to quite a bit over time.

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So don't be too anxious to dismiss experience as one of the critical reasons that it came about. Certainly the Lord knows all things from the beginning, and this isn't the first time (even in this dispensation) when the people had failed to live up to what the Lord desired of them.

It would be strange indeed if the only 'tests' the Lord presented us with were ones he knew we would be certain to accomplish.

One can learn from failure as well as from success, after all and I've always seen the 'tests' of mortality as more of a learning experience, though not so much of what we can do, but what we want to do and just how much.

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Primary lesson, that has got to hurt. :P

My understanding from seminary was that they were to repossess the homes, not fight. I always thought Bushman repeated the obvious in this case, I did not know other ideas were plausible.

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Gosh, and I thought the orthodox position was always a lie. What is this world coming to anyway? You can't trust even the church to always be wrong.

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I wonder if they have taught about this much after Primary. I was thinking it might have been in the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith book somewhat because I remember reading this and maybe giving a lesson on it and I have never been thru Primary. Again maybe I just read it in RSR.

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I've heard this before as well, probably from one of Madsen's talks or one of the panel discussions on the D&C or maybe both. I think some of those who were in the Camp thought they would get to fight and were disappointed when they didn't, which may be where some of the misunderstanding came.

The lesson is that all questions eventually get resolved if we just have the faith to put certain issues on the shelf until they are.

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I will say that I was taught this way back in Seminary... a long, long time ago. Oh and it never did bother me anyway. I am so glad Bushman agrees with the Church... I would be devastated if he did not... :P

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Thanks, everybody, for your responses.

Yes, I do need to be humbled (though I valiantly resist it), and I failed Primary.

It is, if nothing else, a good reminder to me that there are many things I don't know, and perhaps even more things that I do know that just ain't so.

It is good to be here on the board where I can learn from others, and I have learned much of value here over the years.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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Thanks, everybody, for your responses.

Yes, I do need to be humbled (though I valiantly resist it), and I failed Primary.

It is, if nothing else, a good reminder to me that there are many things I don't know, and perhaps even more things that I do know that just ain't so.

It is good to be here on the board where I can learn from others, and I have learned much of value here over the years.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

It had always been a confusing account for me. Why march all the way to Missouri then disband. However, it never rose to the level that I felt I needed to research it. In other words to me it just wasn't that important. I must say it is good to have a little clarification on the subject. I thank you for pointing it out because when I read RSR I must have passed right over it. Guess I will have to get the book back out and read it again.

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I thank you for pointing it out because when I read RSR I must have passed right over it. Guess I will have to get the book back out and read it again.

It's funny you mention that, because now I have to confess I first read RSR back in 2005 when it came out and this did not register on me at all.

Now I am re-reading it again for Gospel Doctrine Class, and I am reading certain chapters several times.

So, I think it is fair to say I read this chapter three times before it finally penetrated; which is especially strange considering this is one of those personally troubling issues that I had put on the shelf for decades.

I will say that RSR is an incredibly dense book. It packs so much information on every page that it sometimes takes repeated readings to distill and unpackage it all.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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It would be strange indeed if the only 'tests' the Lord presented us with were ones he knew we would be certain to accomplish.

One can learn from failure as well as from success, after all and I've always seen the 'tests' of mortality as more of a learning experience, though not so much of what we can do, but what we want to do and just how much.

Does this make sense considering what Nephi said? "And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."

I agree that we can learn from failures too. Does God intend for us to fail on things? Was Nephi wrong? Interesting.

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It would be strange indeed if the only 'tests' the Lord presented us with were ones he knew we would be certain to accomplish.

One can learn from failure as well as from success, after all and I've always seen the 'tests' of mortality as more of a learning experience, though not so much of what we can do, but what we want to do and just how much.

This is alluded to in Skousen's critical text project of the Book of Mormon, where the longer manuscript text of 1 Nephi 3:7 reads:

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them. Except for those times when it's a learning experience, for I know that the Lord asketh of his children to do those things, that they might not accomplish them when it worketh for their good.

1 Nephi 3:7

Apparently, the shorter version was first used in the Nauvoo printing of the Book of Mormon, and ever since.

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Would the original attempts of Nephi to retrieve the Gold Plates bear any parrallel to Zions camp?

In Nephi's case he tried again, and eventually accomplished what he set out to do. Zions Camp did not accomplish their original stated goal.

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Does this make sense considering what Nephi said? "And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."

I agree that we can learn from failures too. Does God intend for us to fail on things? Was Nephi wrong? Interesting.

I said nothing about being certain to fail, simply that it makes sense for God to give us experiences where there is a possibility of us failing (and if one believes in God's omniscience, he knows we are going to fail at...by our own choice, not because there is no possibility of fulfilling the command) rather than just ones he knows that we will be not only able, but willing to overcome all obstacles. Laman fail the test after all, at least would have without his brother's insistence that they could do it even though the possibility of success existed as much for him as it did for Nephi.

I also believe there are somethings we believe are failures because we don't understand God's Will for us and we think it is something different than it actually is.

There is also at issue how a command is actually fulfilled...is it by the intent of the person who does all that he can do, but perhaps is not successful due to circumstances beyond his control? What about the command to be baptized? Is it an actual failure if a minor desires to be baptize, but his parents refuse for him to go through it? Was it a failure of the Church's to not be able to continue polygamy?

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In Nephi's case he tried again, and eventually accomplished what he set out to do. Zions Camp did not accomplish their original stated goal.

The only difference is that the Lord only wanted one of the two distinct tasks accomplished, however in both lessons in leadership were learned.

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It would be strange indeed if the only 'tests' the Lord presented us with were ones he knew we would be certain to accomplish. One can learn from failure as well as from success....

Yes, but it seems that we never take the Lord up on what He has to offer. In the days of Moses, the people could have had the Gospel. They could have had the higher priesthood and greater revealed knowledge, but they threw it away by worshiping a gold calf. Likewise, the Nephite prophets were told that if the Gentiles accepted the restored gospel, that they could assist in the building up of Zion and preparing for the return of Christ. In both cases, though it was in their grasp, the people took the other path and now we're doomed to have horrible judgments and cataclysmic destructions.

For some reasons, humans take the path that will hurt them the most, so much so that sometimes dual prophecies seem to be a bit like taunting those who would be willing to take the higher road.

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Okay, most of you have already heard this story, but...

The Lord ask a man to push on a huge rock, that he, the Lord had a great work for him to do. So, the man went out and push on the great big rock and everyday he would do the same thing, but the rock never moved. He began to grow weary and the enemy noticed so he began to deceive the man about the purpose of pushing the rock. The man prayed to God and said God I've been pushing this rock day and night, but it never moves, I don't understandâ?¦ God's reply was simpleâ?¦ "Son I asked you to push the rock, not move it. Look, because of your obedience you've become a very strong man, your muscles are strong, your legs can endure anything, and your back is firm. Because of your obedience you've become stronger. Now you, my son, are ready for the great work I have for you to do."

Sometimes what we perceive as our failures are necessary parts of our successes.

Peter failed when he walked on the water, but in the end he held his hand out for the Lord to take. He may have "failed," but he wasn't a failure.

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